Transmission in Motion

Seminar Blogs

“Countering a media imaginary” – Job Santé


Figure 1 Merce Cunningham performing in Good Morning Mr. Orwell, Nam June Paik 1984.


In the first session of this year’s Transmission in Motion seminar (2022-2023) Prof. dr. Frank Kessler and Dr. Imar de Vries introduced and discussed the topic of media imaginaries, imaginary media and media imaginations (Kessler and de Vries 2022). This discussion made me think about the works of Nam June Paik. Paik, known as the “father of video art”, worked with televisions and video technology to create large screen-based installation works. These works often reflected the ways in which technology would influence ways of communicating and living. Paik was fascinated with the new invention of the television and video as the new way of communication. Paik’s works often consist of media imaginaries focusing on the medium of television or media imaginations surrounding video (Tang n.d.).

A work that stands out within the context of media imaginaries is that of Good Morning Mr. Orwell. This was a live broadcast happening on New Year’s Eve in 1984, consisting of performances by Avant-garde artists, musicians and dancers that were located all around the world (Nam June Paik 1984). By using satellite technology, Paik was able to create an hour-long broadcast in which performances from all over the world could be watched worldwide. The work is relevant to the context of this first TIM session because it comments on an already existing media imaginary while in itself shaping a new imaginary. As the work’s title suggests Good Morning Mr. Orwell is a commentary on George Orwell’s book 1984 (Orwell 1983). Orwell of course had written 1984 as a commentary on totalitarianism and mass surveillance. As such electronic technology has a negative connotation in his book. George Plimpton, the broadcast’s host introduces the audience by stating “What you’re about to see (…) are positive and interactive uses of electronic media which Mr. Orwell, the first media prophet, never predicted”(Nam June Paik 1984). This serves as a comment on Orwell who in his time wrote about electronic technology as something being used to control and surveil the masses. 1984 predicted a dystopian future, an imaginary in which media were fully controlled by totalitarian governments and served purely as ways of making the public subservient.


Figure 2 Big Brother is watching you in Good Morning Mr. Orwell, Nam June Paik 1984


By using the novelty of live global broadcasting Paik brought a broad and diverse group of artist together, introducing them to a “global” audience. This positive usage of electronic technology countered Orwell’s negative predictions about technology. Good Morning Mr. Orwell could be seen as Paik’s celebration of the possibilities that the development of technology brings with them.

In this celebration and showcasing of “positive (…) uses of electronic media” Paik shapes a media imaginary in which global communication becomes more and more vivid and in which art can have its own place on television (Nam June Paik 1984). An imaginary that could be seen as a predecessor of how social media nowadays depicts Art. Whatever way you look at it though, Good Morning Mr. Orwell made people see the positive sides of new media. Or as Paik would say “a glimpse of a video landscape of tomorrow” (Paik 1973).



Kessler, Frank, and Imar de Vries. 2022. ‘Media Imaginaries / Imaginary Media / Imaginations of Media’. Presented at the Tranmission in Motion Seminar session #1, Utrecht, October 26.

Nam June Paik, dir. 1984. 1984 Nam June Paik, Good. Morning Mr. Orwell, HD.

Orwell, George. 1983. 1984. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Paik, Nam June, dir. 1973. Gobal Groove.

Tang, Oriana. n.d. ‘Nam June Paik | MoMA’. The Museum of Modern Art. Accessed 7 November 2022.



Figure 1 & Figure 2: Nam June Paik, dir. 1984. 1984 Nam June Paik, Good. Morning Mr. Orwell, HD., 41:44, 27:49.